NanoRacks-Ames Fruit-Fly Experiment (NanoRacks-AFEX) - 01.18.18

Overview | Description | Applications | Operations | Results | Publications | Imagery

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
Fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) have similar genetic patterns to humans and are important models for research in genetics, developmental biology and neurobiology. NanoRacks-Ames Fruit-Fly Experiment (NanoRacks-AFEX) studies neurobehavioral changes that occur in fruit flies during spaceflight, using a stress resistant mutant fly population and comparing with a wild type control one. Results will allow scientists to quantify spaceflight-related biological changes, improving our understanding of how organisms adapt to microgravity.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

The following content was provided by Sharmila Bhattacharya, Ph.D., and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Experiment Details

OpNom: NanoRacks Module-31

Principal Investigator(s)
Sharmila Bhattacharya, Ph.D., NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA, United States

Amy Gresser, Ph.D., NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA, United States
Chetan Angadi, Ph.D., Intrinsyx Technologies Corporation, Moffett Field, CA, United States

NanoRacks, LLC, Webster, TX, United States

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
National Laboratory (NL)

Research Benefits
Scientific Discovery, Space Exploration

ISS Expedition Duration
September 2014 - March 2015

Expeditions Assigned

Previous Missions
Information Pending

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Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • It is important to map and quantify the behavior and responses of multicellular animals to the novel environment of space.
  • NanoRacks-Ames Fruit-Fly Experiment (NanoRacks-AFEX) determines whether some genetic variants are more resistant to stresses from spaceflight than others.
  • NanoRacks-AFEX examines whether after being in space for a period of time, the animals can adjust or acclimate to their environment better than when they were first introduced to this new environment.

Previous data from our laboratory as well as from other teams have shown that spaceflight induces oxidative stress changes in biological organisms from Drosophila melanogaster (fruit flies) to humans. Previous spaceflight data obtained by our team, in collaboration with BioServe Space Technologies, has also shown us that there is a change in behavioral responses of flies in space. However, the imaging data from that mission was not optimized for use with small organisms such as flies. Our team of students have therefore developed a habitat with a behavioral monitoring video system as well as lights, carbon dioxide, oxygen, temperature, and relative humidity sensors, fans for air circulation, air vents and a microcontroller alongside a fly living container in order to create a self-contained payload for spaceflight. This habitat accommodates two populations of flies to be maintained for the entire duration of the mission. Video data and environmental data are collected throughout the mission and stored within the habitat, but also have the capability to download via STELLA during the mission. A population of stress resistant genetic mutant line Drosophila melanogaster, shown to be resistant to hypergravity during ground testing, along with its isogenic control line are flown on SpX-4. The ensuing data allows us to quantify changes in behavior in spaceflight as well as to assess the role of oxidative stress pathways in the regulation of neurobehavioral responses to spaceflight.

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Space Applications
Previous experiments have shown spaceflight induces oxidative stress in fruit flies, humans and other organisms. In addition, previous research has demonstrated behavioral changes in fruit flies living in microgravity. This investigation includes a self-contained fruit fly habitat, allowing scientists to study the flies and how their behaviors change in space. One group of flies has been genetically modified to resist stress and the other is unmodified, which allows scientists to compare how stress pathways may be related to the observed behavioral changes.

Earth Applications
Oxidative stress is thought to cause a number of diseases in humans, from cancer to neurodegenerative diseases. Oxidative stress refers to the body’s ability to repair damage to its cells; when the process is disturbed, free radicals and other compounds can cause damage to DNA and other parts of a cell. Understanding the connection between oxidative stress and neurobiological changes could shed light on the role oxidative stress plays in diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. In addition, understanding how animals acclimate to new environments is of general interest to biologists.

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Operational Requirements and Protocols
Activate NanoRacks Module-31 no later than ISS docking + 5 days by plugging the Module into NanoRacks Platform-1 or -2.
Activate the experiment no later than ISS docking + 5 days by plugging the Module into NanoRacks Platform-1 or -2, per existing standard powered Platform/Module operations.  Then, pack for soft-stow return right before vehicle return.

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Decadal Survey Recommendations

Information Pending

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Results/More Information

Information Pending

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Related Websites

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image Diagram of the NanoRacks-Ames Fruit-Fly Experiment (NanoRacks-AFEX) habitat. Image courtesy of NanoRacks LLC.
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